Aethon

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Also known as The Lord Resplendent, The Shield-Bearer, The Dog of War

God of the Sun, Athletics, Competition and War.

  • Associated Colours: White and Gold
  • Symbol: A Blazing Sun
  • Favoured Weapon: A longsword

Pray each morning as the sun rises. Spend time in your day to exercise, to train or to otherwise engage in physical challenge. Turn down no worthy challenge. Destroy evil wherever evil is found. Tolerate no undue suffering of those around you, nor enact any undue suffering unto others. No deed, no matter how small, is beneath you. No insult to your honour, your God, your task, or your worthy companions may go unanswered. Show no cowardice.

Overview

The strong right arm of the United Church, admired by warriors across the Realm and followed by paladins who battle hard against evil, Aethon is also respected and worshiped as the God of the Sun. He is depicted as standing for all that is strong, righteous, resplendent - but also warming, invigorating, and full of life. Aethon is typically considered to be the epitome of human masculinity, and enjoys a higher proportion of male worshippers than any other God save Isall.

There are multiple facets of Aethon which draw attention and worship. He prizes physical achievement and competition, encouraging the pursuit and enjoyment of athletics but equally espousing the virtues of fair play. As a martial figure, in his role as the human God of War, it is righteous battle that he champions, rather than brutal bloodshed. As the Sun God he is considered not a benevolent figure bringing warmth and light to the world, to farmers and to sailors and all those who benefit from the sun, so much as a force of nature. His is the light of righteousness, the force of goodness, and by his sheer presence alone the world is rendered better. He is a symbol as much as he is a proactive force.

This is not to say Aethon is seen as uncaring. On the contrary, although his followers are charged to be masculine and bold, to seek out evil and destroy it, to strive for personal perfection and by their nature to be competitive against others, he also encourages humility. Whilst an Aethonite should take pride in their achievements and themselves, being a braggart would only interfere with their holy duties, and Aethon takes a dim view of such worshippers. Equally, whilst Aethon will take no insult to his pride or the pride of his followers, and they can prove prickly and quick to offend, they are also the most stalwart defenders of those who are suffering, and should never think themselves above a deed, especially if it would aid good or hurt evil.

How Aethon is depicted varies from culture to culture, considering his role as the epitome of masculine pride and strength. His appearance at the Last Stand of Starkholm did not do a great deal to resolve any inconsistencies, considering the light with which his figure blazed was almost blinding to look upon. Emanating from both his surcoat and his shield, he appeared in glinting heavy armour, yet carried the weight in battle as if it were nothing. The only defining feature any can agree on is that he went into battle without a helm, but of his head all that could be made out for sure was his long, golden hair.

The Aethonite church was probably one of the most politically powerful of all of the faiths. They were the wealthiest of the churches, seeing a lot of attention from the ruling classes, especially in Damryn, Lancereaux, and Calavria. The faith also had much less self-restraint than the Tyausian church, with fewer objections to utilising the influence it had gathered. Certainly the head of the Aethonite faith held a seat on the council of the Kings of Damryn, and those of the line of Tewdyr could never afford to dismiss the church which determined their claim to the throne was, truly, divine.


History

Non-formalised worship of Aethon has gone on throughout humanity since long before the founding of any civilisations. Different tribes and cultures would all value something as evidently life-giving as the sun, and in harsh and dangerous times were heavily reliant upon the warriors in their society for protection. Aethon has thus for over a thousand years been seen as the bringer and defender of life.

It was the Damryans who most of all embraced his teachings, and to the Damryans that he sent the majority of his messages, visions, and dreams. They first wrote down his words, and built the first churches in his name, and it was the Damryans who were driven to spread the word far and wide across humanity. As such, most of the Aethonite religion has been formalised and defined by the Kingdom of Damryn.

It has never been confirmed by any independent source whether or not High King Tewdyr was actually a son of Aethon. Scholars - very quietly - suspect this to not be the case, especially since there are no other reputable examples of the Gods siring offspring. But it is notable that Tewdyr rose to success on the back of the religious fervour he whipped up around himself as much as his own skills, and Damryn was united with the belief that such an end was Aethon’s wish. Most Damryans think that if Aethon had not wanted it or if Tewdyr was not his son, the first High King would likely have been punished for his audacity to make such a claim, and see that as proof enough. Equally, every High King since has styled himself as a descendent of Aethon, and this, along with the fact that before the Fall there was an unbroken direct line from Tewdyr on the throne in Caer Brennan, is considered yet more evidence.

The Aethonites had always enjoyed warm relationships with the followers of Tyaus, Vaitera, and Gebrick. Their teachings taught them to respect all of them for their various roles, and so when Andermark became a hotbed of religious discussion, the Damryans especially became involved. Anderian Tyausians were the driving force behind the official formation of the United Church, but Damryan Aethonites supported them whole-heartedly.

Cynical scholars suggest this fervour to not be entirely a case of of religious idealism, but rather, by this point there had already been murmurings within the Aethonite faith about taking action against the heretics of Sahradia. The priests had been receiving dreams, they said, telling them that the heretical followers of Amirr and Isall were a great threat to humanity and that war was the only way. With the Damryan people locked in their conflicts to unite the Realm, the church struggled to get backing to open a new front against Sahradia. In the forming of the United Church, not only could they speed up the formation of the Realm, but they could also gather allies to their cause. And in war the Aethonites would prove their worth. Although they knew they would never be able to supplant Tyaus as the head of their Church, they were determined to not be left as second-rate along with the worship of Gebrick, the peasant’s God, and Vaitera, a humble martyr.

Not to mention that the nearest heretics were in Ibarran, which was ripe for reclaiming from goblins on political and religious grounds. When the United Church was formed and the Realm began to settle in this new era of religious prosperity, the Aethonites travelled far and wide spreading the word of their Lord that the goblins were enemies of the faith, enemies of humanity itself. Their new allies in the United Church either took up the call, or remained diplomatically silent on the matter enough that the movement picked up speed.

It suited the Damryan High King to continue his conquest across the Realm, and so the Aethonites had an easy time of directing him at Ibarran. In the name of freeing humanity, and vanquishing the heretics, the Realm declared war on the goblin-occupied kingdom, and the Aethonites were given their war.

The paladins of Aethon, fighting together in a war for the first time, did indeed prove their worth. They shone more than ever with the power of their God, and mostly consisting of especially faithful Damryans, they combined the discipline of their people with an unparallelled fervour that even the goblins could not match. Such was their performance in the liberation of Ibarran that this reputation would stay with them for centuries after - even through the defeats in the Fall.


Worship

The worship of Aethon is a bombastic, joyous thing. His churches are grand displays to his glory, from the magnificent Cathedral of the Sun in Caer Brennan, the largest centre of worship in the Realm, to the humblest village church. The former was ornate with magnificent statues, carvings, paintings, stained-glass windows, and tapestries, whilst the latter would still see painstakingly hand-crafted decoration around the wooden door-frame, and murals painted with fervent peasant care. To show the glory of Aethon in his houses of worship was yet another form by which worshippers could adore him.

Most of the teachings and sermons of Aethon take the form of stories, which is a heavy Damryan influence. They tell of the deeds of Aethon or his most loyal followers, and work the lesson in with the weave of the tale. Hymns are often worked into the stories themselves, and many of them share significant similarities with Damryan folk songs, or take a huge part in telling aspects of the stories rather than just abstractly glorifying Aethon. One would have to see Lancesian worship of Aethon to see the songs and art at their most sophisticated, but across the spectrum of the faith, the idea of communicating Aethon’s values through specific examples and morality tales remains consistent.

Aethonites traditionally rise before dawn to utter their prayers to the rising sun, full of hope of the beginning of a new day. Their prayers typically take the form of promises rather than requests - promises that they will embrace the light of the sun, and bring its warmth with them all day. Promises that they will make this day a better one, for themselves as well as others. Dusk is a similarly important time for Aethonites, though it is one of the occasions where their usually bombastic approach to life and religion does not apply. At dusk, an Aethonite is expected to take the opportunity for a minute or so of silence and reflection, to consider their day, their prayers, their promises, and to consider if they have done all they ought.

Aside from this, followers of Aethon are not known for their thoughtfulness and restraint. The religion is infused with a joie de vivre, and the ease with which Aethonite tales and songs can apply to entertainment as well as worship, especially in Damryn, means that it is very unlikely one could not tell if someone they meet is a worshipper of the Lord Resplendent.

Any church will regularly hold game days, perhaps once a month. These are considered times of religious import even more than weekly sermons, for followers gather to contest their skill and physical prowess in what is considered the most ‘pure’ appreciation of the values of their God. They begin at dawn, of course, and participants are expected to compete in a wide variety of games, trials, and tests. The champion, or champions, are spectacularly lauded, usually directly before nightfall, which leads on to an eve of great, splendorous celebration. An outside observer could be forgiven for considering them to just be a recreational activity with a lot of shouting, singing, and eventually drinking, but for an Aethonite they are desperately important to their faith, and there is a large amount of subtle ritual and procedure that governs the events.

Aethonite priests are required, as a rule, to be good speakers and to have a good memory. Although there are plenty of written records of the stories of Aethon and the prayers and songs of Aethon, these are usually transcribed for the sake of record rather than to be studied and shared in such a way. It is impractical for most priests to possess written copies of every sermon - not to mention reading such sermon out loud is, as a generalisation, less engaging. So they have to remember each sermon, story, prayer, and song, and bring them to life for their congregation.

Although it is not expected of them, Aethonite priests are consequentially usually rather good with people. They engage with their congregation as ‘first amongst equals’, and are usually pillars of their community, sought out for advice and reassurance socially as well as religiously.

An Aethonite paladin is considered the epitome of how humanity regard paladins. Emblazoned with the sigils of their God and imbued with his holy power, they are charged to seek out and destroy evil wherever it is found, ease suffering, and uphold goodness and righteousness. They are firm believers in the power of the symbol as much as in the power of their own deeds, and it is not so unusual for the more successful to be followed by various bards and storytellers, who are usually guaranteed a good story. Whether it’s a comedy or a heroic epic is often something they will find out along the way.

Orders tend to form with the broad goal of ‘hunting down evil’. This is usually a dangerously vague statement of intent, and can lead to paladins either sitting in their halls doing very little but telling grand tales of mostly-fictional exploits, or their wandering around seeking evil and probably bringing more harm on the local peasantry in the process. These Orders were usually shut down rather quickly by the church, but young men were still prone to founding them anyway.

When effective, however, the Orders of Aethon were staggering. If they came to an area suffering from trouble, be it marauding Yotunaar or a dragon besieging the land, they were usually terrifyingly efficient in dealing with it, as they would typically be the largest body of trained and equipped military men that any such threat had ever borne witness to. If the Order integrated itself with the any local army, they would usually take the form of either an elite unit who would wage devastation against their enemy, or as officers who could command in the field better than the sergeants selected from the levies. Usually the presence of even a handful of Aethonite paladins could transform any force to being notably more efficient.


International Variation

Damryn

Aethon is the most popular deity in Damryn, above even Tyaus. He is depicted as the superior warrior, resplendent in Damryan colours and regalia, with long blond hair and a fine beard, hefting arms and armour with ease and confidence. The majority of churches, especially United Church churches, in Damryn are devoted to Aethon. To the Damryans, he is the quintessential depiction of masculinity and warrior pride, and though Tyaus is respected amongst the lords and Gebrick amongst the peasants, even if they are more relevant to their lifestyles, Aethon is seen as what every Damryan man should aspire to be regardless of social status. Most of the culture of the Aethonite faith is Damryan in origin, and this is felt across the church.

Lancereaux

As with most nations, Lancereaux perceive Aethon to be the pinnacle of their image of ideal masculinity. For the Lancesians he is the defining knight in shining armour, cleaner-cut in appearance than for the warlike Damryans, and more chivalrous and courteous in his conduct. Worship of Aethon is thus particularly popular for a nation obsessed with chivalry, though this is almost exclusively amongst the nobility and knightly classes. One of the defining factors of Lancesian worship of Aethon is that he is seen as the knight in shining armour to Vaitera’s damsel in distress - many of the Lancesian songs and stories of the Gods hint at, and some outright declare as fact, a romantic relationship between the two Gods. It is, however, presented as the very definition of courtly love, where Aethon is a heroic figure who will save her, champion her, and protect her, but where their feelings remain almost unspoken, and are almost never acted upon.

Andermark

Despite being a nation with a warrior culture, Aethon has not been as well-regarded in Andermark as he has elsewhere. The need for a protector is filled by Tyaus, the warrior ethos of Andermen being more inclined towards thoughtfulness and fighting for the people than the more glamorous ideals of Aethon. Similarly, the buoyant worship is not always as popular amongst a people who are rather stern in manner. Nevertheless, Aethon is well-respected as the strong right hand of the United Church, and paid a large amount of deference in universal worship even if there are not as many churches to him there as elsewhere.

Calavria

The Calavrians, with their mixed approach to religion, still regard Aethon with as much respect as any other. In fact, those who are truly fervent in their religion are perhaps slightly more inclined to follow Aethon than most other Gods. Despite the Tyausian churches being the most popular of Calavria, the bombastic, glamorous, and expensive displays which often mark Aethonite worship have made it quite popular amongst those who embrace church as a social way of life.

Ibarran

Ibarran sees the calmest worship of Aethon. He is associated perhaps more than any other God with Vaitera, though they strenuously reject the Lancesian implications of a romantic attachment. But he is also the Sun God, and in sunny Ibarran that wins one respect, if not affection. Additionally, Aethonites led the charge in the freeing of Ibarran from goblin rule, and in the subsequent Crusades against Sahradia itself. Worship of Aethon in Ibarran was thus fairly common, though a considerably calmer, more ascetic and rural affair than anywhere else in the Realm.

Norlundar

The Norls have never worshiped Aethon in any organised fashion. As such, any Aethonite followers in Norlundar were exceptions, and would likely have conducted their worship in the manner of their conversion.